Top 3 Fears in Recovery and How to Cope

April 29, 2022

recovery fear

Fear is an emotional and physical response to danger, whether real or imagined. Physically, fear can enact a flight or fight response in a person that enables them to take on the danger at hand. Emotionally, fear can cause worry and panic in a person, along with a host of other symptoms that can lead to feeling overwhelmed and out of control.

The technical definition of fear according to Merriam-Webster is, “an unpleasant, often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.” Generally, substance abuse victims fall under the emotional response to fear.


For a person who is in a drug and alcohol recovery program, fear stems mainly from the unknown. It becomes a mind game for the victim of substance abuse. Fear plays on the emotions of a victim’s mind, causing them to fall into their thoughts about what happens during and after they leave recovery.

Common questions arise, such as:

  • What if I’m not strong enough?
  • What if I can’t do it?
  • How will my family react? Will they support me?
  • What if I relapse?
  • How will I handle sober living? What about a job?

All of these questions lead us into the top three fears that most victims in recovery face: fear of the future, fear of abandonment and fear of failure.

Courage versus Fear


Fear of the future is one of the top fears of many in recovery because of the many unknowns they face. A person in recovery has a new normal — learning to adjust to sober living. Long-term substance abuse victims can struggle to learn everyday tasks they formerly avoided. This can present challenges that are difficult to handle without their go-to coping mechanism: alcohol or drugs. Every day brings new challenges.

The struggle to prevent a relapse is real when a person has relied on drugs or alcohol to cope, or to avoid reality altogether. Fearing the future after recovery is also normal. Many become anxious about resuming their normal activities with family and friends, they worry about finding a job and they may also worry that they won’t get to have fun anymore. Because their previous life centered on drugs or alcohol, they fear their life will be boring. And boredom carries a high risk for relapse.


Fear of abandonment can occur when substance abuse victims are afraid of losing their support system — family, friends, and other loved ones. Losing the support of those closest to you can leave a substance abuse victim vulnerable to the influences of former acquaintances that still abuse those substances.

A major factor in recovery is getting rid of the toxic people in your life, the people who influenced you into substance abuse. That can leave the victim feeling like they will be alone once they are out of recovery. While it is possible that some may stop supporting you, it is good to know that those who truly care for you will be happy to support you in any way they can.


A top fear that many in recovery face is the idea of failing or relapsing when they leave the recovery center. While they may have the support of their family and friends on the outside, they know they have to learn how to continue on with life when they are outside the supportive comfort of the recovery center. Essentially, they are afraid of falling back into bad habits and setting back their recovery journey, potentially letting down their loved ones in the process.

Sad Women


Facing your fears can be terrifying, but the first step is to know that you are not alone. Here are some steps you can take to cope with fear:

Admit the fear – talk about the fear that is on your mind with someone close to you, a family member or a recovery team member. Share with someone who will listen to what you are afraid of and can help you focus on a solution.

Face the fear – it may take baby steps, but it is important to take on whatever is causing the fear by having the courage to work on it.

Keep a positive mindset – fear likes to keep a person focused on the negative and what can go wrong, so it is important to remain positive and look at the benefits that sober living can bring: reconnecting with family, a steady job, new hobbies, a healthy life, a new future, etc.

Rely on your support system – it is important to keep your supporters close to you and let them know what is going on. Rely on your family, friends and recovery team to help you overcome these fears.

Gratitude Lodge has credentialed, experienced team members who know how to help you through these fears and prepare you to make the transition back into a sober, healthy life. Do you or someone you love struggle with drug addiction? Gratitude Lodge – Drug Rehab Center in California can help! Contact us today for more information.


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